Farmers Branch and Addison at War Over Water

About 150 homeowners in Farmers Branch say neighboring Addison is stealing water from a creek and diverting it to a growing residential development known as Vitruvian Park.

"They did steal our water. That's a fact," said resident Todd Womble, who has lived along Farmers Branch Creek his entire life.

He said the trouble started when Vitruvian Park was built about six years ago. The growing development features two large apartment buildings and shops, built along a picturesque waterway.

"Essentially they were slowly killing the ecosystem," Womble said. "We lost the bait fish, so then we lost the big fish. And then it turns into a big mosquito pit back here."

The town of Addison denies responsibility, spokesman Ed Martell said.

He said Addison's own tests show that the water leaving the pond at Vitruvian Park – heading into Farmers Branch Creek – is actually cleaner than the water entering it.

As for low water levels, Addison blames the drought, Martell said.

Womble and his neighbors don't buy that explanation, arguing Addison's attempt to fix the problem backfired when they drilled into the wrong aquifer and then started pumping dirty water into the creek.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found Addison had violated state environmental rules and fined the city $2,500.

City leaders in Farmers Branch want Addison to fix the problem and say the issue has dragged on far too long.

"It's very easy. They have a permit. We'd like for them to comply with it," said Farmers Branch Deputy City Manager John Land.

Land said Farmers Branch will fight Addison's request to change its TCEQ permit, which would allow it to continue its current operation.

The war over water has pitted city leaders in the two cities against each other.

In a statement, Addison said that Farmers Branch is a "valued neighbor," and noted that the cities share a SWAT team and a public safety dispatch center.

"It is unfortunate that this issue has become a divisive one for a few members of the Farmers Branch community," the statement said. "But Addison is committed to finding a solution that allows us to continue to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars."

Farmers Branch residents say after years of squabbling, they just want a resolution.

"We're happy for Addison to be very successful with their development, make all the tax revenue they want, but they shouldn't make those downstream suffer," said John Brownlee.

"The goal is just to maintain our property values and the quality of life we invested in here in Farmers Branch," said City Councilman Mike Bomgardner, who also lives along the creek.

A public hearing before TCEQ is expected early next year.

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